Walking along the Riverwalk trail to Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, it is alarming to see heavy construction and drilling equipment for a huge structure being built right on the southeast intersection, directly on the New River. Just a few weeks earlier onlookers marvelled at the sight of the river spilling into the road at high tide at that very same spot, less than two miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
Equally alarming is the view from I-95 of how densely developed downtown Miami has become since just a few years ago. Once you could take a leisurely walk on Brickell at lunchtime to enjoy the Miami River where it empties into Biscayne Bay, but now mega structures soar skyward in that area blocking out the sun, and construction cranes dominate the skyline.
All of this new construction costs billions of dollars and raises the asset line on owners’ balance sheets by billions. Communities must wonder how can the builders get financing for these structures that may be under water within the lifetime of the mortgage? Shouldn’t sea level rise be a factor in any feasibility study that approved the construction of these colossal structures right on the water?
Governor Scott, with his churlish dismissal of climate change, seems to believe he can hold back the forces of nature by gubernatorial fiat. His actions in prohibiting state employees from using the words “climate change” are reminiscent of the pontiffs in medieval times who persecuted Galileo until his death for proving that the Earth moves around the Sun, and not the other way. Natural laws are forces unto themselves independent of ideology or politics. They persist uncaring of those such as Gov. Scott and their self-serving opinions.
“If you know a storm is coming you don’t hide your head in the sand, you prepare for it,” said President Obama on Earth Day in Everglades National Park.
So how do you get billions of dollars to build skyscrapers that will stand in water within the lifetime of the mortgage? How do you get insurance? The consternation of many is deepened by the report released several years ago by Swiss Re – one of the largest reinsurers in the world – that painted a scary picture about what climate change and sea level rise will do to various regions of the world, especially low lying areas such as South Florida.
In a recent article in Climate Progress, entitled Florida’s Climate Denial Could Cause Catastrophic Recession, author Joe Rommn shows how the disaster of sea level rise will be passed on to us the taxpayers once the reinsurers, developers, contractors and property owners declare bankruptcy. Because “Florida leads the country in the value of property covered by the
National Flood Insurance Program, often at below market rates. Indeed, its covered property is three times as much as the next state, Texas.” Romm affirms.
So the developers and their enablers are making untold profits now, and plan to stick us with the bill through this federal flood insurance program. Worse, they’re putting these buildings on land that should be used to create structures to mitigate the inevitable flooding that will rush inland to residents.
This is the height of cynicism if not an outright crime. And yet it is our fault that it’s happening in that as citizens we fail to serve as watch dogs over the process of government. The Everglades was not destroyed by actions in Washington, D.C. but by decisions made over the years in our city, county commission meetings and our state’s legislative halls. Similarly, if we are to have any chance of staving off the terrible effects of sea level rise we must become more active in pressing elected officials to be responsible in their actions, because ultimately, the consequences fall on us.